Joe Lieberman, Civil Rights Hero


That woke you up, didn't it? But Lieberman, who claims to have rounded up 62 votes in the Senate for DADT repeal, has, along with Susan Collins, been indispensable in keeping this fast-closing door ajar. What he seems to get is that this is not just some constituency measure, or some minor matter - but a moral matter. We ask young men and women to go into the line of chaos, hatred and murder in order to keep us safe. Many have gone places and seen things and done things this past decade few of us will ever understand, or be able to appreciate. They have lived with the stress of war and constant deployments that their predecessors never had to cope with. They have encountered enemies prepared to violate every rule of war, to hide among civilians, to exploit the accidental deaths of children and women, and to implement barbaric rule wherever they get a chance to hang their medieval hats.

These men and women deserve our support. Period. All of them. It's inconceivable that in wartime, we should be making any discriminatory exceptions among those who fight for us, that we should honor any of them less than the rest, allow any criterion or characteristic to distract from the simple fact that they are American servicemembers - not gay or straight ones or black or Hispanic or white ones, not male and female ones, but Americans, in the US uniform, whose identity as soldiers begins and ends there.

Some see the end of DADT as some kind of special gesture to a minority. I think they are beyond wrong. This is about moving past the notion of a minority, to a more perfect union, in which nothing irrelevant prevents a man or woman from serving his or her country. It is about attacking the endurance of the gay-straight division and replacing it with the unifying fibre of honor and patriotism. It's about gay Americans being able, finally, in some deep way known only to those who have previously been excluded from military service, to become merely Americans.

Let us lose that qualifying adjective in the service of something greater than ourselves. E pluribus unum.

(Photo: U.S. Army SFC Isaac Migli, 26, walks up a mountainside towards an American outpost in the Korengal Valley October 24, 2008 in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. The remote and isolated valley is the site of some of the heaviest fighting between U.S. forces and Taliban insurgents. By John Moore/Getty Images.)